Jul 21, 2021 - World

Wendy Sherman to become highest-ranking Biden official to visit China

Wendy Sherman

Wendy Sherman in France in 2014. Photo: Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will visit Tianjin, China, on July 25-26 to meet with Chinese government officials, including State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the State Department announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: Sherman will become the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit China, just days after the U.S. and its allies accused Chinese state-sponsored actors of carrying out massive cyberattacks all over the world.

Flashback: Secretary of State Tony Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska in March for what proved to be a contentious first summit.

  • The two sides exchanged sharp criticism in a post-meeting press conference, where Sullivan accused China of engaging in an "assault on basic values."
  • Wang Yi, who was also present in Anchorage, attacked the U.S. for its "miscalculated" decision — just days before the summit — to impose sanctions on China for its crackdown in Hong Kong. China has repeatedly accused the U.S. of meddling in its internal affairs.

Special climate envoy John Kerry then visited Shanghai in April for talks on climate change, a key issue that Biden says the U.S. and China must cooperate on even as the two countries spar over trade, human rights, military aggression and other issues.

The big picture: Relations between the world's two largest economies are at their lowest point in decades, if not ever.

  • Last week, the State Department and five other federal agencies issued an advisory warning that businesses with supply chains and investments in the Chinese region of Xinjiang run a "high risk" of violating U.S. laws on forced labor.
  • A similar advisory was issued days later about Hong Kong, where freedoms have been dramatically curtailed by Beijing's new national security law.
  • On Monday, the Justice Department unveiled criminal charges against four Chinese Ministry of State Security hackers for cyberattacks in at least a dozen countries. The U.S., NATO and other allies formally blamed China for a massive March attack that exploited a flaw in Microsoft's Exchange Server.

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